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CPEC and gifted Balochistan

Zaffar Alam

Traditionally, China and Pakistan have cooperated closely at the strategic and political levels. Now the two nations are making efforts to expand their bilateral collaboration economically as well. The construction of CPEC is a milestone that signifies this shift. Balochistan province is the largest province of Pakistan and its importance lies in the concentration of natural resources.

Regardless of this, it has remained the underprivileged province in country. The province is rich in natural resources, but low rate of urbanization and a high rate of unemployment are the reason behind low annual growth rate.

The current Balochistan’s literacy rate stands at 51.5% and a thin rate of urbanization and a high unemployment index of 20% have also caused a low annual growth rate. But today the fate of gifted Balochistan is changed into a highly fundamental in terms of its location not only for Pakistan and China but for the whole world.

As Gwadar Port is the hub for international trade which is located near the Strait of Hormuz as it is the only maritime route for the oil supply of Gulf States. World’s 40% oil is supplied from the Strait of Hormuz. Gwadar port is suitable for shipping in entire year due to comparative warm climate of Balochistan. While the seas of those countries which are in cold regions become unsuitable for shipping in whole year due to ice burgs in sea. This makes Gwadar port important for these countries in order to do their trade activities constantly in entire year.

Gwadar Port, an active and developing port in terms of an economic center, compelled the regional and global powers to prepare their infrastructure in order to get access to the energy resou-rces of Central Asian states.  The interests of Iran and Dubai Ports are to put the Gwadar Port out of the competition, because the surrounding countries of the Strait of Hormuz work as a gateway.

China established the Coastal Highway by the investment of million of dollars which connects Gwadar Port to Karachi. China considers Gwadar Port very important because Kashgar to Gwadar corridor will be available on very small cost for exports and imports from Central Asia, Europe and Africa as compared to South China Shanghai Port. Gwadar Port has one another quality; if U.S would close the Strait of Malacca, then maritime route of Arab sea will always be opened for both Pakistan and China for commercial activities due to Gwadar Port.

The progress on Gwadar Port has been the most significant task in recent years.

Once developed, the port would be a game changer for the province, the CPEC will open up new avenues of opportunities for the people of Balochistan. It is envisioned that Gwadar would be transformed into an economic hub and will subsequently contribute towards the development of the whole province, resulting in addressing the various economic and social problems of Balochistan.

Another potential sector, that can change the fate of the province, is mining. The province is rich in mineral resources and the mining sector would flourish, as the CPEC would become operational. It would contribute towards reducing unemployment in local areas. It would also enable the local government to develop and enhance its human resource. Strengthening micro and medium small sized industries in Balochistan would also contribute towards achieving greater benefits for the local population. The locals must be aware of advantages, the development of the CPEC would bring and the potential that it holds for the locals. New developments bring new challenges along with them and both, the provincial and Federal governments, should be prepared to deal with them.

The government of Balochistan will need to develop policies and provide a clear direction on how resources are to be leveraged towards economic growth, poverty reduction and the creation of new jobs and opportunities for the local population. This should include a plan that outlines a process of inclusive growth and aligns it with the public and private sector actions.

 

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